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On the feast of Stephen, Pope asks for love, prayers for persecuted Christians

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Despite increased persecution and attacks against Christians, the faithful must strengthen their courage and joyful desire to follow Christ no matter the cost, Pope Francis said.

St. Stephen the Martyr is seen this detail from a mural painted by Lorenzo Sabbatini during its restoration in 2007 at the Vatican. During a noon blessing Dec. 26 at the Vatican, Pope Francis spoke on the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, saying that by choosing truth, St. Stephen also "became victim of the mystery of wickedness present in the world. But in Christ, Stephen won." (CNS photo/courtesy of the Vatican Museums)

St. Stephen the Martyr is seen this detail from a mural painted by Lorenzo Sabbatini during its restoration in 2007 at the Vatican. During a noon blessing Dec. 26 at the Vatican, Pope Francis spoke on the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, saying that by choosing truth, St. Stephen also “became victim of the mystery of wickedness present in the world. But in Christ, Stephen won.” (CNS photo/courtesy of the Vatican Museums)

By choosing God’s path of truth, “light and life” over all else, Christians continue to give witness and persevere in “living according to the logic of the Gospel and refusing the logic of the rulers of this world,” he said at a noon blessing Dec. 26 at the Vatican to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

The pope spoke on the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, saying that by choosing truth, St. Stephen also “became victim of the mystery of wickedness present in the world. But in Christ, Stephen won.”

Jesus forewarned his disciples that they would be hated and suffer in his name, the pope said, adding that such persecution continues today with so many men and women experiencing oppression, violence, hatred and even martyrdom because of their faith.

“Why does the world persecute Christians?” the pope asked.

For the same reason the world hated Jesus, “because he brought God’s light and the world prefers darkness for hiding its evil deeds.”

“Following Jesus means following his light, which was lit in the night of Bethlehem, and abandoning the darkness of the world,” the pope said.

The same cruelty experienced in the early church continues to exist and “there are more martyrs today” than during the early centuries, he said.

The pope asked people to think of those “who suffer persecution, to be close to them with our affection, our prayers and even our tears.”

He cited the courage of Iraqi Christians, saying those who had celebrated Mass Christmas Eve in their destroyed churches were “an example of fidelity to the Gospel.”

Hundreds of Iraqi Christians attended Christmas Eve Mass at St. George Chaldean Catholic in Bartella, near Mosul, in northern Iraq, after the area was freed from Islamic State forces who had occupied the area for more than two years.

“Despite the hardship and dangers, they courageously give witness to their belonging to Christ and live the Gospel dedicating themselves to the least, the most neglected, doing good to everyone without distinction, in this way, witnessing charity in the truth,” the pope said.

With Christmas being the time to make more room in our hearts for Jesus, “let us renew the joyous and courageous desire to faithfully follow him as the one and only guide,” he said.

After praying the Angelus, the pope thanked everyone who had sent him Christmas greetings and prayers, apologizing for not being able to personally respond to the many messages he received.

A “heartfelt thank you! May the Lord reward you with his generosity,” he said.

 

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World scarred by war, greed must welcome prince of peace, pope says at Christmas

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The song of the angels that heralded the birth of Christ urges men and women to seek peace in a world divided by war, terrorism and greed, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets children at the conclusion of Christmas Eve Mass in Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets children at the conclusion of Christmas Eve Mass in Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Today this message goes out to the ends of the earth to reach all peoples, especially those scarred by war and harsh conflicts that seem stronger than the yearning for peace,” the pope said Dec. 25.

Migrants, refugees, children suffering due to hunger and war, victims of human trafficking as well as social and economic unrest were also remembered by the pope.

“Peace to the peoples who suffer because of the economic ambitions of the few, because of the sheer greed and the idolatry of money, which leads to slavery,” he said.

An estimated 40,000 people slowly made their way through security checkpoints into St. Peter’s Square to attend the pope’s solemn Christmas blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world). 

Heightened security following the Dec. 19 terrorist attack in Berlin, Germany was evident as police cordoned off streets and established multiple checkpoints throughout the area.

While police presence is standard for major events in St. Peter’s, the added security was a sign of the times where crowded areas have become a target for terrorists.

The pope prayed for “peace to those who have lost a person dear to them as a result of brutal acts of terrorism that has sown fear and death into the hearts of so many countries and cities.”

Countries ravaged by the scourge of war were also in the pope’s thoughts, particularly in “the war-torn land of Syria, where far too much blood has been spilled,” especially in the city Aleppo. The pope called on the world to support the people of Syria with humanitarian assistance and to put an end to the conflict.

“It is time for weapons to be silenced forever and the international community to actively seek a negotiated solution so that civil coexistence can be restored in the country,” he said.

      The pope appealed for peace for the people of Ukraine, “who to this day suffer the consequences of the conflict.”

The Vatican announced Dec. 23 that the first installment of 6 million euro ($6.3 million) would be distributed on Christmas Day to assist in relief efforts in Ukraine. Earlier this year, the pope called for a collection across churches in Europe to help the people of the war-torn country.  

Iraq, Libya and Yemen, “where their peoples suffer war and the brutality of terrorism,” were in the pope’s prayers so that they may “be able to once again find unity and harmony.”

The pope also remembered Africa, especially Nigeria where fundamentalist terrorism “exploits children in order to perpetrate horror and death” as well as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, calling on their leaders to choose the path of dialogue rather than “the mindset of conflict.”

He also prayed for peace in the Holy Land and that Israelis and Palestinians turn away from hate and revenge while having “the courage and determination to write a new page of history.”

Praying for an end to current tensions, the pope also called for peace in Venezuela, Colombia, Myanmar and the Korean peninsula

Christ’s birth, he said, is a sign of joy and a call for the world to contemplate “the child Jesus who gives hope once again to every person on the face of the earth.”

“‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.’ He is the ‘prince of peace;’ let us welcome him.”

After his address, the bells of St. Peter’s rang loudly, pealing throughout the square as they did in the evening Dec. 24 following the proclamation of Jesus’ birth during Christmas Mass.  

The darkness of the night sky over St. Peter’s Basilica was broken by the bright lights emanating from the colonnade and the Christmas tree from the square.

Temperatures just above 40 degrees didn’t stop thousands of people unable to enter the packed basilica from participating in the Mass, sitting outside and watching the Mass on giant screens in St. Peter’s Square.

In his homily, the pope said the love of God is made visible at Christ’s birth on a night of glory, joy and light “which would illuminates those who walk in darkness.”

The shepherds are a witness to “the enduring sign” of finding Jesus when they discover him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger; a sign that is given to all Christians today, the pope said.

“If we want to celebrate Christmas authentically, we need to contemplate this sign: the fragile simplicity of a small newborn, the meekness of where he lies, the tender affection of the swaddling clothes. God is there,” he said.

This sign of humility, he added, also reveals a paradox: God who chose not to reveal himself through power, but rather through the “poverty of a stable” and “in the simplicity of life.”

“In order to discover him, we need to go there, where he is: we need to bow down, humble ourselves, make ourselves small,” the pope said.

The image of the child in the manger, he continued, is a challenge for all Christians to “leave behind fleeting illusions” and “renounce insatiable claims.”

It is also a calling for the world to respond to the sufferings of children in this age who “suffer the squalid mangers that devour dignity: hiding underground to escape bombardment, on the pavements of a large city, at the bottom of a boat overladen with immigrants,” the pope said.

“Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by the children who are not allowed to be born, by those who cry because no one satiates their hunger, by those who do not have toys in their hands, but rather weapons,” he said.

Christmas is not only a mystery of hope but also of sadness where “love is not received and life discarded” as seen by the indifference felt by Mary and Joseph “who found the doors closed and placed Jesus in a manger.”

That same indifference, he said, exists today when commercialism overshadows the light of God and “when we are concerned for gifts but cold towards those who are marginalized.”

“This worldliness has taken Christmas hostage. It needs to be freed,” the pope said departing from his prepared remarks.

However, the hope of Christmas is the light that outshines this darkness and “draws us to himself” through his humble birth in Bethlehem,” he said.

      Noting that Bethlehem means “house of bread,” the pope said that Jesus was born to nourish us, creating a “direct thread joining the manger and the cross.”

“In this way, he seems to tell us that he is born as bread for us; he enters life to give us his life; he comes into our world to give us his love. He does not come to devour or to command but to nourish and to serve,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said that like the shepherds, who although marginalized are chosen to witness the birth of Christ, Christians are reminded of God’s closeness and can enjoy the true spirit of Christmas: “the beauty of being loved by God.”

“Contemplating his humble and infinite love, let us say to him: thank you, thank you because you have done all this for me,” the pope said.

 

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Pope holds Christmas audience with Vatican employees, families

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — While exchanging gifts for Christmas is a beautiful tradition, Pope Francis said, do not forget the one and only real gift people will ever receive is God’s gift to humanity, his son, Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis holds a child as he arrives to lead a special audience with Vatican workers Dec. 22 in Paul VI hall. While exchanging gifts for Christmas is a beautiful tradition, Pope Francis said, do not forget the one and only real gift people will ever receive is God's gift to humanity -- his son, Jesus Christ. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Pope Francis holds a child as he arrives to lead a special audience with Vatican workers Dec. 22 in Paul VI hall. While exchanging gifts for Christmas is a beautiful tradition, Pope Francis said, do not forget the one and only real gift people will ever receive is God’s gift to humanity — his son, Jesus Christ. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Also be sure to thank God for the gift of employment and pray for all those who are jobless or experience injustice and exploitation at work, he told Vatican employees during a special audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall Dec. 22.

As Christmas carols in multiple languages played over the public announcement system, many children offered small gifts or notes to the pope, who celebrated his 80th birthday Dec. 17. Some people wore colorful Christmas sweaters, or others, including one small baby, had on red Santa Claus hats.

Multiple generations were present, with employees allowed to bring their parents, grandparents, children and newborns. Families whose members had special needs were seated in the front and were each greeted personally by the pope after the audience. The pope’s chief bodyguard, Domenico Giani, alternated between providing security and doing cellphone-camera duty when he obliged people’s requests to take their picture with the pope.

The pope continued a tradition he began in 2014 of inviting people who work at the Vatican, along with their family members and loved ones, to receive pre-Christmas greetings. The now-annual meeting follows a longer-held tradition of the pope meeting with members of the Roman Curia, the church’s central administrative offices, as well as cardinals living in Rome and members of the papal household.

Pope Francis thanked the Vatican employees, most of them laypeople, for their hard work and dedication, recognizing that the small size of Vatican City often made coordination and cooperation a lot easier.

“We always have to thank God” for the gift of employment, he said, which is important for an individual’s well-being and entire families, he said.

He then asked for prayers for all those around the world, “who do not have work, or else, who often do jobs that are inappropriate, poorly paid or harmful to one’s health.”

The pope requested that everyone, according to their responsibilities, make sure jobs respected people’s dignity and their families and followed the Catholic Church’s social teaching.

The Vatican, above all, he said, must follow these Gospel guidelines, which also meant doing nothing deceitful or illegal in its employment arrangements — “nothing under the table.”

 

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Pope Francis outlines his principles of reform at Vatican

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The reform of the Roman Curia is not a mere face-lift to rejuvenate an aging body but a process of deep, personal conversion, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets a cardinal during an audience to exchange Christmas greetings with members of the Roman Curia in Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Dec. 22. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets a cardinal during an audience to exchange Christmas greetings with members of the Roman Curia in Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Dec. 22. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Meeting with cardinals and the heads of Vatican offices for his annual Christmas greeting, the pope warned that “it is not wrinkles the church should fear” but rather the stains that impede its growth and relevance in the world.

“The reform does not have an aesthetical end to make the Curia more beautiful; it cannot be understood as a sort of face-lift or applying makeup to beautify the elderly curial body, nor plastic surgery to remove wrinkles,” the pope said Dec. 22.

While his addresses in previous years focused on curial ills and medicinal virtues, this year’s speech laid out a 12-step program of guiding principles geared toward an appropriate and long-lasting recovery.

“It was necessary to speak of illnesses and cures so that every operation, to achieve success, be preceded by an in-depth diagnosis, by accurate analyses and must be accompanied and followed through with precise prescriptions,” the pope said.

Although certain forms of resistance to reform may come from a sense of goodwill or fear, there are others that are based on malevolent intentions dressed like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, he said.

“This last type of resistance hides behind justifying words and, in many cases, accusatory; finding refuge in traditions, in appearances, in formality, in what is known, or in wanting to bring everything on a personal level without distinguishing between the act, the actor and the action,” the pope said.

However, no matter whether the intentions are good or bad, resistance is necessary and they “deserve to be heard, received and encouraged because it is a sign that that the body is alive.”

“The absence of reaction is a sign of death!” he said.

Curial reform, however, must be viewed as a slow and delicate process that must be followed through with continuous discernment, wisdom and action but above all, “with many prayers.”

Listing 12 criteria, the pope explained that the reform is at its heart a sign of the church’s liveliness and a “process of growth and above all, conversion.”

The guiding principles of the reform of the Roman Curia are:

  • Individuality (Personal conversion): A person’s spiritual well-being can either strengthen the body of the Curia or damage it and make it sick.
  • Pastoral conversion: The workplace must have a pastoral spirit where “no one feels neglected and mistreated” and everyone can experience the care of the Good Shepherd.
  • Missionary spirit (Christ-centric): Without an authentic evangelical spirit and faithfulness of the church to its own vocation, “any new structure will corrupt in short time.”
  • Rationality: No Vatican office is greater than another and the responsibilities of each office must be clearly distinguished.
  • Functionality: The merging of offices, demotions and promotions must always be done to streamline and hone in a dicastery’s specific mission.
  • Up-to-date (“Aggiornamento”): Vatican offices must read “the signs of times” and adapt to the needs of the universal church.
  • Sobriety: The Roman Curia must be willing to simplify and slim down, especially when it comes to “offices that are no longer responsive to contingent needs.”
  • Subsidiarity: Reorganize priorities within the offices and, if necessary, shifting responsibilities to another dicastery while working in sync with the Secretariat of State.
  • Synodality: Reducing or merging Vatican offices avoids fragmentation and allows for more frequent meetings between the pope and the heads of those offices.
  • Catholicity: The Curia should mirror the universality and multicultural nature of the church and hire personnel from around the world while emphasizing the important role of permanent deacons and the laity, especially women, in the life and mission of the church.
  • Professionalism: Every office must adopt a policy of personal formation to avoid the rust and routine of functionalism, as well as putting a definitive end to the practice of “promoveatur ut amoveatur” (“removal by promotion”). “This is a cancer!” the pope exclaimed.
  • Graduality (Discernment): Taking time by verifying, correcting and discerning methods and policies that can “allow the necessary flexibility to achieve a true reform.”

He also highlighted the various steps, structural changes and continuing processes of the reform throughout his pontificate, all of which are meant to stress that “the heart and center of the reform is Christ.”

Reciting a Christmas prayer written by the late Coptic Orthodox monk, Father Matta El Meskeen, the pope said the birth of Christ is a “celebration of the loving humility of God,” which stands in stark contrast to the logic of ambitions, power, phariseeism, and domination.

Before greeting those present individually, Pope Francis said he had a gift for each one of them: a copy of Jesuit Father Claudio Acquaviva’s 14th-century book, “Curing the Illnesses of the Soul,” a guide for spiritual directors that emphasized expressing views gently without compromising in substance.

“It’s a beautiful translation, it’s well-made and I think it can help,” the pope said.

 

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Christmas reminds us of hope for the future, Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The birth of Christ is a reminder for Christians to take a moment and reflect on the hope of salvation given by God to the world, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis poses for a selfie with an Argentine police officer from the province of Entre Rios during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 21. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis poses for a selfie with an Argentine police officer from the province of Entre Rios during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 21. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Those who are humble and poor like the shepherds come to realize the promise of hope that comes from trusting God and not from “their own securities, especially material goods,” the pope said Dec. 21 during his weekly general audience.

“Remember this: Our own securities will not save us. The only security that saves us is the hope in God which saves us, which is strong. It makes us walk through life with joy, with a desire to do good, with a desire to become happy for all eternity,” the pope said.

Upon entering the Paul VI audience hall, the pope greeted people and received gifts and letters from well-wishers.

Approaching a crying child, the pope wiped her tears and did his best to calm her. After succeeding in consoling her, he then pointed to his cheek, which the toddler leaned toward and kissed.

Continuing his series of talks on Christian hope, the pope reflected on the birth of Jesus as the “source of hope” for the world.

God, he said, “does not abandon his people, he is near to them to the point of stripping himself of his divinity.”

God “entered into the world and gives us the strength to walk with him. God walks with us through Jesus and walking with him toward the fullness of life gives us the strength to be in the present in a new way,” the pope said.

Hope, the pope continued, is never stagnant and the simplicity of the Nativity creche found in Christian households “transmits hope. Each character is immersed in this atmosphere of hope.”

The pope explained that each image found in the Nativity scene represents an aspect of this hope, such as the city of Bethlehem which, despite it not being a capital city, was the place chosen by divine providence, which “loves to act through the small and the humble.”

The figures of Joseph and Mary, who both believed in the words of the angel, can be seen gazing at the child they were told by God to name Jesus, the pope said.

“In that name there is hope for every man and woman because through that son of a woman, God will save humanity from sin and death,” he said.

The image of the shepherds, he continued, represents the humble and the poor who witness the long-awaited promise of hope and salvation while the angels singing at the birth of Christ represent the “praise and thanksgiving to God” expressed in Christian life.

“In these days, by contemplating the creche, we prepare ourselves for the Nativity of the Lord. It will truly be a feast if we receive Jesus, the seed of hope that God sows within the furrows of our personal history,” Pope Francis said.

 

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Pope calls for peace in Congo following deadly protests

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis appealed for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo following the killing of protesters demonstrating against President Joseph Kabila in several cities across the country.

People chant slogans against Congolese President Joseph Kabila as armed U.N peacekeepers watch protesters Dec. 20 in Kinshasa. (CNS photo/Thomas Mukoya, Reuters)

People chant slogans against Congolese President Joseph Kabila as armed U.N peacekeepers watch protesters Dec. 20 in Kinshasa. (CNS photo/Thomas Mukoya, Reuters)

After meeting recently with the heads of the Congolese Bishops’ Conference, the pope renewed his call during his weekly general audience Dec. 21, urging the people of Congo to “be authors of reconciliation and peace.”

“May those who have political responsibility listen to the voice of their own conscience, may they be able to see the cruel suffering of their compatriots and have at heart the common good,” the pope said.

Government security forces shot and killed 26 protesters during scattered demonstrations throughout the country against President Kabila, who has exceeded his presidential mandate, according to the Reuters news agency.

The news agency also reported that the government failed to schedule elections, citing logistical and financial issues, raising fears that the country would once again be thrown into chaos.

President Kabila and government authorities have rejected calls by local opposition leaders and the international community to respect the constitution and step down.

Pope Francis expressed his “support and affection for the beloved people of that country” and prayed that government leaders would work for the good of their people.

“I invite everyone to let themselves be guided by the light of the Redeemer of the world and I pray so that the Nativity of the Lord open paths of hope,” the pope said.

 

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Pope grants clemency to priest who leaked Vatican documents

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis granted clemency to a Spanish monsignor who had been sentenced to 18 months in prison for leaking confidential Vatican documents.

Msgr. Lucio Vallejo Balda, former secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, was given “conditional freedom” with his early release from a Vatican prison cell, said the Vatican press office in a written statement late Dec. 20.

Given that the monsignor has already served “more than half” of his sentence, “the Holy Father Francis has granted him conditional release,” that is, a form of “clemency which allows him to regain his freedom” under certain conditions for the remainder of his sentence, the statement said. The early release did not mean his criminal record would be expunged or “erased,” it added.

Beginning the evening of Dec. 20, “the priest will leave prison and will cease” to have any kind of connection as an employee or working relationship with the Holy See and will immediately be back under the jurisdiction of his bishop in the Diocese of Astorga, Spain.

In July, at the end of a trial dubbed “VatiLeaks II,” a Vatican court had found the 55-year-old priest guilty of stealing and passing on secret documents to journalists who published them.

The court found Francesca Chaouqui, a member of the former Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See, guilty of encouraging the leak and she received a 10-month suspended sentence.

The two Italian journalists, Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, were acquitted after the Vatican tribunal declared in had no legitimate jurisdiction over them.

Nicola Maio, Msgr. Vallejo Balda’s former assistant, was found not guilty and acquitted of all charges.

Paolo Gabriele, the former papal butler who was found guilty in 2012 of leaking reserved papal correspondence to Nuzzi was pardoned by Pope Benedict XVI after serving less than three months of an 18-month sentence.

Under the Vatican criminal code, it is a crime to take, distribute and publish confidential documents.

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Pope names first woman to head Vatican Museums

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has chosen, for the first time, a woman to head the Vatican Museums.

Barbara Jatta, 54, is an Italian art historian and graphic arts expert, who had been serving as vice-director of the museums since June.

Vatican Museums, Barbara Jatta, pope names, first woman to head, Vatican Museums,

Barbara Jatta has been appointed by Pope Francis as the new director of the Vatican Museums. Jatta, an Italian art historian and graphic arts expert, will be the first woman in the post. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

The Vatican announced the appointment Dec. 20.

She will begin her new role as director of the museums Jan. 1, 2017, replacing 77-year-old Antonio Paolucci, who had been director since 2007.

Each year millions of people visit the Vatican Museums, which include the Sistine Chapel and more than 50 different galleries. It is one of the largest museums in the world with 200,000 objects in its collections, 20,000 of which are on public display, 27,000 square feet of frescoes, and 4.35 miles of exhibit space.

Jatta started working at the Vatican in 1996 when she was hired to head the Vatican Library’s departments of prints.

In 2010, she was named curator of the artwork in the prints department at the library.

She has degrees in literature, archive administration and art history, specializing in the history of drawing, engraving and graphic arts. Jatta also taught history of graphic arts at the “Suor Orsola Benincasa” University in Naples. She is married and the mother of three children.

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Pope denounces ‘homicidal madness’ after attacks in Berlin, Ankara

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Expressing his condolences to victims and their families, Pope Francis called for an end to terrorism following a string of deadly attacks in Berlin and Ankara.

Similar to an attack with a truck that took place in July in Nice, France, a tractor-trailer veered into the crowded Breitscheidplatz Christmas market in Berlin and plowed through bystanders, killing 12 people and wounding nearly 50.

A mourner prays in front of a makeshift memorial Dec. 20 at the scene where a truck plowed into a crowded Christmas market the previous day in Berlin. The terrorist attack killed at least a dozen people and injured nearly 50 as it smashed through tables and wooden stands. (CNS photo/Hannibal Hanschke, Reuters)

A mourner prays in front of a makeshift memorial Dec. 20 at the scene where a truck plowed into a crowded Christmas market the previous day in Berlin. The terrorist attack killed at least a dozen people and injured nearly 50 as it smashed through tables and wooden stands. (CNS photo/Hannibal Hanschke, Reuters)

In a Dec. 20 telegram sent by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, to Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin, the pope prayed for the families of the dead and the wounded, “assuring his closeness in their pain.”

“Pope Francis joins all people of good will who are working so that the homicidal madness of terrorism does not find any more room in our world,” Cardinal Parolin wrote.

Cardinal Parolin said the pope received news of the attack with “profound emotion” and joined the families of the victims in their mourning and “entrusts the dead to the mercy of God.”

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany, president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, said news of the attack in Berlin had “deeply shocked me” and called on the people of Germany to “hold together and stand united as a society.”

“The violence on the Christmas market is the opposite of what visitors were seeking. My compassion goes to the relatives of the dead and injured. For all of them, I will pray,” he said Dec. 20.

Police detained an asylum-seeker from Pakistan who was near the attack. However, as of Dec. 20, authorities said they are unsure whether he was the driver of the truck.

The attack in Berlin occurred not long after the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, by a lone gunman during the opening of an art exhibition in Ankara.

Mevlut Mert Altintas, an off-duty Turkish policeman, shot Karlov several times, shouting “Allahu akbar (God is great). Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria! Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria!”

The gunman was later shot and killed by police. Several family members and the gunman’s roommate were detained by investigators seeking a possible connection with terrorist groups.

Cardinal Parolin conveyed the pope’s condolences to President Vladimir Putin of Russia, saying he was “saddened to learn of the violent attack in Ankara.”

“In commending his soul to almighty God, Pope Francis assures you and all the people of the Russian Federation of his prayers and spiritual solidarity at this time,” Cardinal Parolin wrote.

The Vatican also told journalists that Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican secretary for relations with states, telephoned the Russian ambassador to the Holy See, Alexander Avdeev, to “express his condolences for the murder of the Russian ambassador to Turkey.”

 

 

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At children’s hospital, pope warns of a cancer in ‘sickness industry’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Corrupt business practices that seek to profit from the sick and the dying are a cancer to hospitals entrusted with the care of the most vulnerable, especially children, Pope Francis said. Read more »

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